PITTSBURGH (AP) -What a comeback for the Ottawa Senators. Thanks to Ryan Malone's two late goals and the playmaking of Pittsburgh Penguins teammates Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, what a disappointment, too.
Malone scored Pittsburgh's third power-play goal with only 1:02 remaining and the Penguins squandered a three-goal lead, then rallied for a 5-3 victory Friday night over the Senators and a two-game lead in their Eastern Conference playoff series.
Petr Sykora scored two of the three goals set up by Evgeni Malkin as the Penguins - who also blew a three-goal lead against Ottawa at home on Feb. 23 and lost 4-3 in overtime - dodged what might have been a frantic, series-changing rally by Ottawa.
"I don't want to make any decisions about that," Malkin said, asked if a Senators win would have turned the series around. "We won the game, and what's most important is we're ahead 2-0."
The series shifts to Ottawa for Game 3 on Monday and Game 4 on Wednesday. The Senators have never won any of the six previous playoff rounds in which they trailed 2-0, including last season's five-game Stanley Cup finals against Anaheim.
Malone - the first homegrown player to play for Pittsburgh - added an empty-net goal with 6.5 seconds remaining on the Penguins' 54th shot, easily their most in regulation in their playoff history. The previous record was 49 against St. Louis in 1970.
"Fifty-four shots? There's only so much a goaltender can do," Crosby said. "We were playing great hockey. When it was 3-3, we weren't happy, but we had to keep playing the way we were, and we got rewarded. We knew if we kept playing like that, we'd be fine."
Martin Lapointe's high-sticking penalty on Jarkko Ruutu at center ice with 1:14 remaining put Pittsburgh on its sixth power play. Crosby controlled the puck after the faceoff, fought off defenseman Anton Volchenkov in the corner and got it to Martin Hossa for a backhander. Malone grabbed the rebound, went behind the net and stuffed a wraparound inside the post past an outstretched Martin Gerber.
"Sid threw the puck on net like we were trying to all night, Hoss tipped it and Gerber was out a little bit, so I was trying to beat him inside that far post," Malone said. "I don't think we got comfortable (after leading 3-0). ... Nobody panicked. We figured that if we kept on going, we were getting enough chances and we'd get one in sooner or later."
Sergei Gonchar also scored and Crosby, held scoreless as Pittsburgh won 4-0 in Game 1, had four assists.
"I think our guys had a lot of character, played hard and battled from a 3-0 deficit," Senators coach Bryan Murray said. "I have to believe they will play well at home."
Lapointe didn't dispute the pivotal penalty - he was trying to push Ruutu's stick and caught him in the face instead - but doesn't think it will decide the opening-round series.
"We're going back to Ottawa and we're not dead yet," he said. "We're down 2-0, but I saw a lot of positive things and some character. We have to go back to Ottawa, win there and start from there"
The Senators couldn't have had a much worse start, giving up the first seven goals of the series. But, desperately trying to salvage a game in Pittsburgh, they finally got to goalie Marc-Andre Fleury to tie it on goals by Shean Donovan, Cory Stillman and Cody Bass. Bass' first career playoff goal made it 3-all with slightly more than nine minutes remaining.
Until then, the Senators had no answer for Malkin's playmaking and stickhandling, which led to a series of scoring chances, or the agitation of longtime playoff opponent Gary Roberts, who drew several early penalties. Malkin has six points in two games, including one goal.
"They're a high-skilled team, give them room and they're going to take you apart," Gerber said.
The Senators' offense looked lost without injured captain Daniel Alfredsson for a game and a half, only to quickly find itself after it looked like Pittsburgh might win in another rout.
Donovan, a former Pittsburgh forward, scored 33 seconds following Sykora's second goal, after he redirected Chris Neil's pass along the goal line. Stillman scored less than five minutes later as Ottawa converted for the first time in its nine power play chances in the series, steering a shot between Fleury's pads from the crease as he and teammate Jason Spezza both punched at the puck.
Notes: Volchenkov played despite a swollen forehead that needed 15 stitches, after he was struck in the helmet by Malkin's slap shot in Game 1. ... Ottawa has never won more than two games in a series in which it trailed 2-0. ... The Penguins lost two of the 10 previous series they led 2-0, to the Islanders in 1975 and the Flyers in 2000. ... Sykora has never had a hat trick in 935 career games in the regular season and playoffs. ... The Penguins won their 10th in a row in Pittsburgh. ... The Penguins last led a playoff round 2-0 in 2001, when they needed seven games to eliminate Buffalo. ... Pittsburgh has won Game 2 in its last seven playoff series.